Speeches and Transcripts

Launch of 'Avoid the crash, Avoid the trauma' campaign






**Check Against Delivery

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

Thank you all for attending this event this morning.

A special welcome to the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs; and the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation, Senator Kim Carr.

Welcome also to Darren Chester and Alex Gallagher, who convene the Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety Group.

It is good to have Senator Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, here.

And we also have a former Minister for Road Safety with us in Catherine King, who now happens to be Shadow Minister for Health.

You have just seen one of the ‘Don’t Rush’ ads. I am very proud and honoured to be part of that campaign.

It shows the tragic outcomes that occur if we do not make our roads safe.

It highlights the senseless death and injury that can be avoided if we educate drivers and improve the safety of the vehicles we drive.

The origin of the ‘Don’t Rush’ campaign – and my involvement in it – is a relatively unusual one, but it was a situation that is sadly familiar to doctors.

Essentially, it was a long weekend. I was on call for both the adults’ hospital at Westmead and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

I was sitting at home in my study doing my dictation on a Friday night. The sort of exciting life that you lead as a neurosurgeon. It was raining.

The phone rang and it was my registrar at the Children’s Hospital.

There had been an accident and there was a child that had just had a scan. They had arrested and were having CPR. They sent through some pictures.

The skull had been shattered and there was not a survivable injury, and I suggested they stop. She died.

About five minutes later, the phone rang again and this time it was the adults’ hospital.

A young lady with severe head and facial injuries was in the scanner. She needed surgery that night.

When I arrived, I learnt that she had been the driver in that accident that had not only killed the child from the Children’s Hospital, but also had killed another adult and another child.

All because she decided to overtake in the wet. A split second decision with fatal consequences - but also a life with a brain injury and, no doubt, a lifetime of guilt.

The next day I had another call. This time from the Children’s Hospital, and this time there were two children. So I went in to find a situation of what seemed to be chaos.

They were brothers, aged 6 and 8. One had a CT scan. He had a bleed on the brain, and we were about to take him to theatres. The other was in the scanner when I arrived.

The child was having CPR. There were about 20 people in the room, working frantically. The mother and the father were in the room.

The current wisdom is that, in these circumstances, parents cope better with loss if they are present. I am not sure that is true. They knew what was happening.

I looked at the scan and I could see the reason why. The spine had separated from the skull. In medical terms, an atlanto occipital dislocation. In lay terms, an internal decapitation.

The child was not going to survive, and I suggested they stop. The team took the child back to the ED so that the parents could be with him in his final moments.

I have, unfortunately, witnessed a lot of grief, but perhaps never seen quite the same anguish from parents as this.

I suspect one of the reasons was that the driver that caused the accident was the father. A split second decision, again fatal consequences for some, lifelong disability and anguish for others. He was no doubt a good person. A good person making a bad decision.

I can clearly remember driving home that weekend – exhausted – but thinking – there has to be something that I could do.

For me, that was the moment that it became not just about the patient in front of me, but those patients that would come after and, of course, preventing people, particularly children, from becoming patients at all.

But this is not just about road deaths.

We know that there are tens of thousands of significant injuries that occur through road accidents.

I see the brain injuries, the spinal injuries that also devastate the lives of people of all ages. But there is much more. Injuries such as whiplash can devastate people's lives too.

Just last week, I reviewed a young man. He had the dream job travelling the world as a professional photographer. He mainly photographed ski resorts and exotic locations.

A simple accident. Rear ended. He ended up with whiplash. He lost his business, his career, his girlfriend, his social circle, and, in his words, his life, all because of someone else's failure to stop.

Six years on, he is still trying to pick up the pieces. It's an all too common story, but one that is rarely told.

We know the systems approach. Safer roads, safer cars, safer drivers. But it is the human factor, the unpredictable nature of people, particularly children, that is the most difficult element to control.

That is why I did not hesitate to have the AMA join with ANCAP on the ‘Avoid the crash, Avoid the trauma’ campaign.

This campaign is about saving lives on our roads. It is about reducing the road trauma.

It is not complex. It is all about simple solutions. It involves using clever technology that already exists – technology that is already a standard feature in new cars sold overseas.

The starting point is Autonomous Emergency Braking – AEB.

AEB technology uses cameras, sensors, and sometimes lidar or radar to detect the speed and distance of objects in a vehicle’s path, and automatically brakes the vehicle if the driver does not respond.

The purpose being to avoid or minimise the severity of a crash. 

The AMA and ANCA are here today to recruit your efforts to help in the push to expedite the introduction of safer vehicles equipped with life-saving AEB technology in Australia.

The simple message is "Avoid the crash, avoid the trauma". AEB can help avoid the crash.

Throughout this campaign, ANCAP and the AMA will work together to:

·         educate key decision makers;

·         encourage consumer demand; and

·         put pressure on vehicle manufacturers and importers.

We will actively highlight the importance and benefits, and encourage uptake of, Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Autonomous technologies are key to reducing road trauma. They remove the human element, which unfortunately can be the weakest link.

I’d like you now to watch a short video, which shows how AEB works.

The video is, of course, from the United Kingdom, where ANCAP’s partner organisations are driving dramatic and welcome changes in road safety.

As medical professionals, we at the AMA know that prevention is far better than the cure.

If we avoid the crash, we avoid the trauma.

Vehicle technologies such as AEB can help lead the way in reducing road trauma at an unprecedented rate.

New vehicles in the U.S. and Europe are being delivered with AEB as standard. This is not so in Australia.

Australian people, whether at home or at work, should benefit from this technology. There is a cost, but are Australian lives worth any less than the lives of people in the rest of the world?

Our simple request to you today is to take this message of the benefits of AEB to your colleagues, your Party leaders, to industry and, most importantly, to your constituents in your local electorates.

It is their lives we want to save, it is their health we must preserve.


12 August 2015

CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Odette Visser                      02 6270 5412 / 0427 209 753

Follow the AMA Media on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ama_media
Follow the AMA President on Twitter: 
Follow Australian Medicine on Twitter: 
Like the AMA on Facebook 

Media Contacts


 02 6270 5478
 0427 209 753

Follow the AMA

‌ @AustralianMedicalAssociation